Biden admin is preparing to target Americans’ gas furnaces amid stove crackdown
The Biden administration is expected to soon finalize regulations restricting which home gas-powered furnaces consumers are able to purchase in the future.
According to experts, the regulations — proposed in June 2022 by the Department of Energy (DOE) — would restrict consumer choice, drive prices higher and likely have a low impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The agency could finalize the rules targeting residential gas furnaces, which more than 50% of American households rely on for space heating, at any point over the upcoming weeks.
‘This is a classic example of one size not fitting all,’ Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital in an interview. ‘Every home is different, every homeowner is different and people are best off having a wide range of choices. They can work with their contractor to make the best decision for their home and their circumstances.’
‘The efficiency standard would effectively outlaw non-condensing furnaces and condensing alternatives would be the only ones available,’ Lieberman said. ‘Those are more efficient, but they cost more. And installation costs could be a big problem for some houses that are not compatible with condensing furnaces.’
Under the proposed regulations, DOE would require furnaces to achieve an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 95% by 2029, meaning manufacturers would only be allowed to sell furnaces that convert at least 95% of fuel into heat within six years. The current market standard AFUE for a residential furnace is 80%.
Because of the stringent AFUE requirements, the regulations would largely take non-condensing gas furnaces — which are generally less efficient, but cheaper — off the market. But consumers who replace their non-condensing furnace with a condensing furnace after the rule is implemented, face hefty installation costs.
‘There are some really technical reasons why this is such a concerning rule,’ Richard Meyer, the vice president of energy markets, analysis and standards at the American Gas Association (AGA), told Fox News Digital in an interview. ‘It has to do with the ability for consumers to be in compliance with this new efficiency standard.’
‘They’re going to have to, in many cases, install new equipment to exhaust gas out of their home. These higher efficiency units, or so-called condensing units — a lot of consumers have them in their home, but a lot of consumers don’t. So, this rule would require additional retrofits for a lot of consumers. And those retrofits can be extremely cost prohibitive.’
The AGA, whose members provide natural gas to more than 74 million customers nationwide, filed comments in opposition of the furnace rules with the DOE last year. The industry group has argued consumers would be better served if the agency allowed the free market to naturally increase product efficiency.
Overall, between 40-60% of the current residential furnaces on the market currently would be prohibited under the proposed regulation.
‘What we’re seeing across the U.S. federal government and reflected, of course, in many states right now is an active policy push intended to address climate change,’ said Meyer. ‘But the outcome is to restrict the options and availability of the direct use of natural gas for consumers.’
‘AGA’s primary concern is, one, removing that option, that choice, from consumers,’ he continued. ‘Two, in many cases, natural gas remains the lowest cost and even lowest-emissions resource for many consumers. A lot of the policies we’re seeing that are designed to restrict natural gas may end up having a counterproductive result and could increase costs to consumers and could increase the emissions associated with the energy use by those consumers.’
In its announcement last year, the DOE claimed the efficiency standards would save the average family about $100 a year and reduce carbon emissions by 373 million metric tons and methane emissions by 5.1 million tons.
Francis Dietz, a spokesperson for the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute which represents heating equipment manufacturers, said his organization’s members are in favor of regulations that aren’t ‘overly stringent.’
‘Our main goal in this is to have a rule that is reasonable enough so that there are still higher efficiency choices for consumers,’ he told Fox News Digital. ‘So, you know, you would have one at a level low enough where it would be more affordable for consumers and others who felt they needed even more efficiency would still have some choices there. That’s really our main goal.’
The expected rule, meanwhile, comes amid a blitz of DOE rulemaking targeting appliance efficiency standards. Over the last several months, the DOE has unveiled new standards for various appliances including gas stoves, ovens, clothes washers, refrigerators, air conditioners and dishwashers.
And in December, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm touted that the administration had taken 110 actions on energy efficiency standards in 2022 alone. The energy secretary added that the regulations strengthened U.S. leadership in ‘the race towards a clean energy future.’
According to the current federal Unified Agenda, a government-wide, semiannual list that highlights regulations agencies plan to propose or finalize within the next 12 months, the Biden administration is moving forward with rules impacting dozens more appliances, including pool pumps, battery chargers, ceiling fans and dehumidifiers.
Under the DOE’s mission statement, the Unified Agenda highlights advancing ‘energy efficiency and conservation’ as one of five central pillars. Broadly, Democrats and environmentalists have argued that electrification, banning natural gas hookups and implementing strict energy efficiency standards could help accelerate emissions reductions.